Only a couple of things so far have surprised me. Open sewage running in streets and piles of garbage—expecting it. But one of my first surprises was the confidence with which some of my fellow blans move around the city. Their comment to me, “it has improved here so much since this time a year ago.” My roommate of the first week was an older American who’d spent 13 months here and managed to learn virtually no Creole. My first week here was her last week, so I got invited to a lot of farewell festivities. Dinner out in Petionville (the nicest part of town where all the foreigners but me live), dinner at a co-workers house, taking the neighbors’ kids to school on the other side of town, (although I have to admit I still have very little sense of the town. Most streets aren’t marked and directions resemble, “turn left at the big hole in the road… oh wait, that hole got filled in, mmm…) grocery shopping with co-workers, dinner at another co-workers house, a trip down to Cite Soleil, and the Saturday market with my Cameroonian neighbor this morning…
A few spots have pushed my comfort zones, but as someone put it to me here, “Fear breeds fear.” At this time a year ago, no one was outside past dark, period. The streets are teeming now at most all hours, and another blan colleague of mine said she was out on the Champ du Mars (big open plaza by the Presidential Palace, very near my apartment) drinking until 3am one night, and the place was packed. Kidnapping apparently hit its peak last December, and although it does still happen, the UN has cracked down hard, and the Haitians are welcoming the relative tranquility. Just like they are heartily welcoming traffic lights, which apparently only beat me to
The other surprises
On Wednesday morning Cite Soleil, the notorious slum in
A last note on Cite Soleil— The Haitians call American hand-me-down clothing “Kennedies.” As we walked out of the Cite I saw a Haitian girl roughly my age wearing a bright purple t-shirt with an orange “Clemson” emblazoned across it. My guess is 99% of Clemson has never heard of Cite Soleil, and not a soul in the Cite knows what Clemson is. I smiled to myself and kept walking.